New Orleans The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Tuesday that it has finished pumping out the New Orleans metropolitan area, which was flooded by Hurricane Katrina six weeks ago and then swamped again by Hurricane Rita.
The initial flooding during Katrina was caused by water surging over some levees and breaking through others. At one point, 80 percent of New Orleans was under water.
Some puddles remain in areas of the city that had the deepest water, but "you can drive anywhere," said Col. Duane Gapinski, the engineer leading the task force assigned to pump the city dry.
Much of the water had been pumped out from Katrina when Rita caused tidal surges that pushed more water into the city.
Engineers were able to lower the water level by about 6 inches a day using temporary pumps along with the city's permanent pumps, some of which didn't always work, Gapinski said.
He said temporary repairs to the levees along the 17th Street and London Avenue canals, responsible for flooding in the downtown, are nearly complete.
Another task force has begun rebuilding the levees to their pre-Katrina condition. That work is scheduled to be finished by the time the next hurricane season begins June 1.
For now, there are no plans to rebuild the levees stronger than before. The Corps would have to get Congress' approval for such work.
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